H-1B Filing Season Fast Approaching

Mar 19 2018 - Hiring - Gail Cecchettini Whaley

More petitions are filed than available H-1B visas.

More petitions are filed than available H-1B visas.

The H-1B filing season for fiscal year (FY) 2019 begins on April 2, 2018. If you use workers who need H-1B visas, be ready — the slots will go fast!

There is a statutory cap on the number of H1-B visas that are granted. Currently, the cap on H-1B visas is 65,000 with an additional 20,000 allowed for persons exempt from the cap under the advanced degree exemption (for those with a U.S. master’s degree or higher).

Last year, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) hit the statutory H-1B cap for FY 2018 within the first week of the filing period, which closed on April 7, 2017.

The USCIS received approximately 199,000 H-1B petitions during last year’s filing period, including petitions filed for the advanced degree exemption. On April 11, 2017, the USCIS used a computerized “lottery” to randomly select a sufficient number of petitions needed to meet the caps.

H1-B visas are used for foreign workers in specialized skill areas — typically in specialty occupations that require theoretical or technical experience in specialized fields, such as science, engineering, information technology or computer programming.

The H-1B program allows companies in the United States to temporarily employ foreign workers in occupations that require the application of a body of highly specialized knowledge and a bachelor’s degree or higher in the specific specialty, or its equivalent. H-1B specialty occupations may include fields such as science, engineering and information technology.

Clearly, more petitions are filed than available visas — the limit has been hit within the first week of the filing period for the past several years. The USCIS monitors the number of petitions received and notifies the public when the H-1B cap has been met.

Employers are advised to plan ahead and be ready to file their H-1B petition immediately when the filing season opens. You may file an H-1B petition no more than six months before the employment start date for the visa beneficiary. All cap-subject H-1B petitions filed before April 2, 2018, for the FY 2019 cap will be rejected.

Follow all statutory and regulatory requirements as you prepare petitions to avoid delays in processing and possible requests for evidence. The base filing fee is $460 — additional fees may apply. If any fee payments are not honored by the bank or financial institution, the USCIS will reject the entire H-1B petition without the option for the petitioner to correct it.

The USCIS provides a helpful Optional Checklist for Form I-129 H-1B Filings (Form M-735) to assist FY 2019 H-1B petitioners. This checklist provides detailed information on how to complete and submit an FY 2019 H-1B petition.

For more detailed information, visit USCIS’s H-1B Fiscal Year (FY) 2019 Cap Season page.

Gail Cecchettini Whaley, CalChamber Senior Employment Law Counsel 

CalChamber members can check out verifying eligibility for employment in the HR Library. Not a member? Learn more about how HRCalifornia can help you.

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